MATTHEW Jarvis broke Pontypool hearts at Eugene Cross Park as the full-back’s monster penalty eight minutes from time took 14-man Merthyr into the WRU National Cup final.

Pooler looked like they were heading to the Principality Stadium to take on Cardiff after overturning a 14-0 deficit to lead 18-17 with time running out.

But the Ironmen, who had winger Teri Gee sent off on the stroke of half-time, had other ideas and Jarvis’ kick from just inside Pooler territory proved to be a match-winner.

Pontypool, of course, have bigger fish to fry in terms of their future with next month’s play-off to join Merthyr in the Principality Premiership – but this semi-final defeat will still be tough to take.

Pooler wasted a great chance to open the scoring inside the first two minutes when fly-half Matthew Lewis pushed a penalty wide.

That miss proved costly as just moments later, and from Merthyr’s first attack, Gee collected the ball from his own chip ahead to score.

Jarvis’ successful conversion of Gee’s fifth-minute try gave the Ironmen a dream start.

And the game was barely 15 minutes old when the cup holders doubled their tally, already making it an uphill battle for Pooler to get back into the match.

Having been awarded a penalty in the Pooler 22, the decision was made to kick for touch rather than bag the three points.

It proved the right choice as prop James Howe eventually managed to ground the ball following a textbook catch and drive.

Jarvis added the extras with a superb touchline conversion to further assert Merthyr’s authority on the tie.

However, Pontypool weren’t going to let Merthyr’s two-try lead dampen their spirits, and soon after Howe’s touchdown the Gwent side were on the scoreboard.

It was a mirror image of Merthyr’s second score, with flanker Scott Matthews the man to emerge from the pile of bodies with the ball.

Lewis just missed the conversion, but Pooler had a platform to build from at 14-5 down.

It was then Pontypool’s turn to waste a promising attacking opportunity with a knock-on in midfield, although a strong shove at the resulting scrum led to Lewis making it 14-8 with a penalty.

The outcome of the battle between the two packs was always going to have a huge say on the encounter, but with both eights conceding scrum penalties neither set of forwards was really on top.

Pooler, despite not having much luck breaking through the Merthyr defence, were being given chances to cut the deficit.

Lewis took one such opportunity after the Ironmen infringed at a lineout and at 14-11 down Pooler were very much back in the game.

But there was still time before the break for controversy.

Referee Mike English brandished a red card to try scorer Gee after consulting the TMO following a collision between the Merthyr winger and opposite number Lloyd Lewis.

The Pooler speedster had already left the field having been poleaxed as he met Gee head-on with the Ironmen on the attack.

Television replays showed that Gee, with the ball in his left hand, led with his right forearm which connected with Lewis’ head.

Three points behind but a man to the good, Pooler began the second period on the front foot with the run of the ball going their way.

A scrum against the head paved the way for Pontypool’s second try.

They kicked a penalty to touch and after a series of drives, and with a penalty coming, Matthews crashed through a gap to score again. Lewis converted to give Pooler an 18-14 lead.

But Merthyr, even though they were a man short, were always going to come back, and Jarvis, despite slipping mid-kick, slotted a close-range penalty to make it a one-point game.

Big hits were a feature of the semi-final and one of the biggest came from Pooler winger Jordan Thomas, though the referee deemed it to be a high tackle.

The official didn’t enamour himself to the Pontypool fans again with just over 10 minutes to go, this time giving Merthyr a penalty in the face of some stern defending.

Jarvis, who had been in the wars, struck the kick well but just pushed it wide.

After Merthyr skipper Craig Locke was dumped on his backside, another high challenge from Pooler gave the Ironmen another chance to retake the lead.

And, from just inside the Pooler half, Jarvis struck a sublime kick that just made it over.

As the clocked ticked down, Pooler knew they had to gain good field position, but Merthyr showed their experience in the closing stages and did well to starve Pontypool of possession.

Merthyr: M Jarvis; T Gee, A Pinches, A Thomas, K Evans; G Davies, R Downes; J Howe, R Williams, J Rees, B Murphy, C Locke (capt), J Thomas, O Davies, P Rees. Reps: M Dwyer, C Phillips, L Jones, H Barnes, J Davies, A Hoskins, J Martin, H Davies.

Pontypool: G Walsh; L Lewis, J Mahoney, K Meek, J Thomas; M Lewis, A Quick; A Coundley (capt), D Hughes, C Price, D Hodge, C Gregory, S Matthews, M Herbert, B Sparks. Reps: C Hewlett, A Watkins, H Seward, R Nash, B Lampitt, M Luckwell, C Gullis, R Usher.

Referee: Mike English (Caldicot)